Depending on when you bet the Phoenix Suns' win total before the regular season, you got either a tick above or below 38.
The Suns, who missed the playoffs last season, were expected to be a little over .500 in the 72-game season. And that would have been a nice progression. The Suns hadn't finished above .500 since 2014.
Preseason championship odds? They started at 100-to-1. Those odds dropped to 50-to-1 when the Suns traded for Chris Paul, and ticked down to 40-to-1 before the season tipped off. They opened at 22-to-1 to win the West, after the Paul trade.
The NBA doesn't have many off-the-radar champions, like sports with single-elimination tournaments. But the Suns are -190 favorites to win it all at BetMGM after wrapping up the Western Conference championship on Wednesday night. Nobody saw that coming months ago.
Those short odds seem about right too.
Suns were overlooked
The Suns aren't a fluky NBA Finals team. They were just underrated and overlooked before the season.
Paul transformed the Suns and they went 51-21 in the regular season, blowing past that preseason win total. Still, when the playoffs started only 3.3% of NBA championship tickets at BetMGM were on the Suns. The Suns were +700 to win the West despite being the No. 2 seed.
The Los Angeles Lakers were expected to beat the Suns, especially when Paul's shoulder was bothering him. Phoenix handled them. The Suns swept the Denver Nuggets. And then they knocked out the Clippers in six games.
The Suns did catch some breaks with injuries to opponents, and might do so again in the NBA Finals, but there will be no asterisk attached to their title if they win it. It's not the Suns' fault they've stayed relatively healthy and have kept winning.
Injuries have affected the postseason
In the first round, the Lakers saw Anthony Davis go down with an injury. The Nuggets were without Jamal Murray, their second-best player. Kawhi Leonard never played for the Clippers in the conference finals.
The Suns' NBA Finals opponent will either be the Bucks, who don't know when Giannis Antetokounmpo will return from a knee injury, or the Atlanta Hawks, who are waiting for Trae Young to return from a foot injury. It seems Young would return by the NBA Finals, but even if he does it could be at less than 100%.
Injures in the East finals are part of why the Suns are big favorites to win it all, but not the only reason. Phoenix has a very good team. Deandre Ayton and Devin Booker are fantastic players. The Suns have fine role players. The Suns also stayed healthy, which isn't necessarily in their control but it matters. They'll also have home-court advantage in the Finals, and their fans are ready to see their team win a title.
Just because the Suns are big favorites don't mean they'll win a title. The Hawks are overlooked themselves. The Bucks are still favored over the Hawks for Game 5; the betting market hasn't given up on them. But Phoenix is in pole position. It was earned.
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